Sunday, April 23, 2017

a wild feminine baptism

We are born of the dark and the mud. The waters are grimy - full of nutrients, full of mica like broken stars, full of the memories of our grandmothers and all the roots, bird hearts, sorrows, they ate.The waters slid through forests where women journeyed and men dug. We are one-third muck, one-third myth, and one-third wonderment.

And through skin light shines, opening our eyes. And when we are born air flows into us, changing everything.

I remember when I was younger, and walking alone through a city far from home, far from my mother, I thought perhaps now I can call myself a woman. But I wasn't certain. Even after I too became a mother, I wasn't certain. I supposed it was a culture scar across my heart. But now I wonder if infact it was instinctive acknowledgement that I had not fulfilled the maiden spirit in me. Perhaps a woman can not feel herself a woman until she has been enough of a girl. A poet or a dancer, a nonsense-speaker, a leap of flame, a flower-scented gust, a rollick of light on the surface of the river.

Perhaps she doesn't get the chance for it until her children are grown, or her bones are old: until the men have finished talking and the parents don't care what you do any more. Perhaps she was a crone long before she got to be a maiden.

It doesn't matter of course. There's never really been anything linear about any woman. (Or any man, either.)

What I think is that sometimes, to grow, a woman must go back to her Mother. She must kneel down in old water, with the moon reflecting like horns in her wet hair, and she must delve into her amniotic mud for what belongs to her but she hasn't yet played on - tendrils of weed, sinew, love, choices, that grew around her, over and over, until they made her bones and heartbeat, and that can be plucked like harpstrings to make a self-song. I think sometimes a woman must get herself thoroughly dirty with the muck and myth of life. That's the wild feminine way to baptise yourself.

And when the woman arises again, the windswept light will dry her until she shines.  

Photographs by the amazing Michelle Gardella, who is possibly my favourite photographer ever. She has previously given me permission to share her work. 

the bear that carries the moon

Outside, the sky is slowly turning the colour of the old dreaming sea. I have come to love early mornings, for they hold stars too, and remembrances of the wild god's drumbeats that go deep beneath the soil, through the intimacies of the Mother, the roots and tunnels of the earth. I saw one houselight in the fading darkness - then realised it was my own houselight, reflecting off my neighbour's roof. It ought to serve as a lesson, but I already knew I could be my own light for myself in the world.

Frosty quiet mornings like this, I can sense the stretch of the old night, as if it is a great black bear that has been padding about the houses and streets, carrying the moon on its shoulders, and now is easing out the cold from its muscles, the stars from its pelt, and hunkering down to sleep. Now come the teeming people, the day tribe. They drive all over pawprints and over tiny pebbles thrown up by the sacred drumbeat and the pulse of the lush and heavy earth. They think they are evolved. But the night bear is older than their dreaming, and the drum, although it sings of them, is not just for them.

So another day begins.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

the legacy of an ordinary woman

There was a woman who lived quietly in the world. She won no awards, saved no lives. Mostly, she did the best she could to get by.

But she loved. People, trees, skies, animals, moments, promises, roads, words. She took the time as much as she could for wonder, enchantment, and appreciation.

She did nothing great with this love. Her art was small, simple, like her life. She would never be famous. She would probably be forgotten.

But love needs no fame to thrive. Each smile she gave to a stranger, each flower she pressed in a library book, each hug for an unhappy child, each moment in which her love shone out, would not die. It would echo on down through time. The books she wrote would be those quiet words of encouragement someone got stuck in the back of their mind. The art she painted would be memories someone could look back upon always to make them smile. The healing she did would be taught on through the generations - how to bandage a little scrape, how to sing a lullaby. She was making a legacy, even in the quiet, getting by.

illustration errol le cain

Friday, April 21, 2017

the simplicity of being

There's something I always remember near the end of a storm. The wild thing is not necessarily the fierce thing battering at edges and weeping, singing, spinning upon the silenced world. There is wild too in the calm waters and the soft meadow.

I read again this morning that a story must have conflict to be interesting. But I don't know. I've read stories in which there is no apparent conflict, but which have such a sense of place that the silence beneath that space, the old roots that have tangled and been torn apart, rewoven, repaired, to create that space, impacts on my consciousness more than any visible stakes could. The power of suggestion, and of the simple description of something, should not be underestimated. The first time I heard the title of Henry Beston's book, The Outermost House, those words alone were an entire possible story.

I've changed this webspace a little for the inbreathing time of my next book. Winter is coming, bringing words and a wolfish sea.

how to describe a woman

Do not call her beautiful, pretty, attractive. She is not the angle of bone nor the measured scope of her face. Neither call her beautiful on the inside, since she'll know exactly what you mean - a lack, dressed up in a compliment.

Instead, tell her how you love the way the world tilts slightly, as if the moon has come closer to see, when she smiles.

Do not say she is tall or short, fat or thin, as if we possess space and every inch of it must be paid for somehow. Instead, note the way she shines at the edges, where the bright, immortal sphere of her soul comes in contact with the human hour.

Let her know you are grateful for her body, since it brought her to you.

Describe not what she does for a living, because if we think money is living, we've got life badly wrong. Talk instead about the quality and tone of her silence as she sits in the bedroom watching rainshadows fall and tiny motes of dust fall and your whole courage fall because how can you approach this woman, this universe, breaking her silence and risking whatever she might say to shore you up or break you?

And when in the darkness you can not see her, can only dream her in the warmth of breath and love's heart beating, you must relinquish words entirely. When you know at last that she is beyond description, then you understand a woman.

a witch of a book

I recently finished reading Wild, An Elemental Journey, by Jay Griffith - a book which continues to cling with long, sharp fingers to my heart even after I've put it down and picked up something more gentle. It is a witch book in the darkest meaning of the word - fierce and hungry, scraping its meaning into my bones until I am crying. And in the best, most real meaning of the word - laden with an old and powerful wisdom that may taste bitter at times, may choke us with its herby smoke, but is more than essential; is true. And true we can not do without.
“All humans are essentially wild creatures and hate confinement. We need what is wild, and we thrill to it, our wildness bubbling over with an anarchic joie de vivre. We glint when the wild light shines. The more suffocatingly enclosed we are - tamed by television, controlled by mortgages and bureaucracy - the louder our wild genes scream in aggression, anger and depression.” ― Jay Griffiths
My only argument against Jay's philosophy is that wild doesn't have to mean anarchy. Infact, any walk through a forest, a riverside, a meadow, will inform you that wilderness is actually a place of peace and co-operation. I myself see modern urban civilisations as places of anarchy. For all their laws and their boundaries, they revolt in the most profound manner of all - they do as they wish, regardless of the natural rules of life.

But wild - the tapestry of living - the threads that, trembling together, hum a timeless song all over the world, whatever the zone or climate - that is the enclosure of love. And the spirit, indeed, of internet journalling, since through this medium we are able to weave our roots together and share nutrients like all the members of a forest; we sing the evening songs of food-places and experiences as small birds do; we make a community. (How strange that this should happen in a white space of no space - a realm that touches nothing except minds and hearts in disparate places of the world.) The internet dismantles political laws and boundaries. It may seem like a wild anarchy of information and opinion, but I believe it is a wild peace of co-operation.

crossed paths

There is magic in the old city. You'll know that already if you've ever lived there. Or if you've read anything by Charles de Lint you'll be able to imagine it.

We had to go all the long, long way into the city today. When we had a free moment, I took my daughter to see the decrepit house I once lived in when I was a starving student learning poetry and old books and eating Chinese takeaways for dinner. My apartment was tiny and you could not walk halfway into the kitchen without fearing that you'd slide down the tilted floor towards the uncertain windows. I was amazed to see the building still standing, after all these years.

As we were walking back down the hill, an old Slavic man walked up towards us. He looked like something out of a myth - dressed in ancient style, all browns and weary leather; he wore a round leather hat from beneath which hung two long grey braids. His chin was tattooed. He walked with the aid of a twisted wooden cane, although he was tall and thin and straight.

I smiled at him, utterly drawn to him. And he stopped. He said, how is it that I should come upon two such beautiful ladies on a day like this? And he waved a hand to honour the sky, sending black birds swirling into cold grey light. Then he held out both arms and bowed to us.

We laughed with delight and thanked him. We went on our way. Turning back once, I saw him ambling up the hill. Turning back again a moment later, I found he had vanished.

No doubt he lives in one of the tiny dingy apartments which clutter the ramshackle houses on the hill. He likely sits alone in his dim room, dreaming of his wondrous, faraway homeland and drinking smoky tea. But it seemed to me he was one of the old, deeper people, the magic people, and I feel blessed to have crossed his path on this hushed winter's day.